Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Best Actor 1948: Lew Ayres in Johnny Belinda

Lew Ayres received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Doctor Robert Richardson in Johnny Belinda.

Johnny Belinda is a film about a young deaf mute Belinda (Jane Wyman) who is taught to communicate by a kind doctor, but is threatened by a cruel local, and as well as the gossip of the locals.

Lew Ayres may play the nicest character ever to be nominated for this award. I really cannot think of any direct competition off hand.  Robert Richardson is kind, nice, likable, and even when others are acting cruelly to him he still behaves in a polite manner to them. I guess one could say Richardson is one all around swell guy. Due to this fact though, it can't really be said that Ayres gives a particularly complex performance. He does not have to though, as the requirements of his part are really to be the supportive man to Belinda, to help her in the world, not much more than that.

There is not really much more to his performance, the only two problems with his character one could possibly see is that he is still nice, when he probably should not be, and also that some of his selfless plans are not always fully thought out such as his plan to marry Belinda even though he does not truly love her. Ayres does a good job though I think in the simplicity of his character, he plays the part with a nice pleasant ease. I never felt he was forcing his kindness, but rather it was actually the nature of his character simply to be this kind. Ayres also I felt avoided being dull despite the part being the way it is, he still brought the right joy into his performance that makes being around the doctor a wholly pleasant experience.

Ayres never really has all that much to do as he said, he is either being very nice to Belinda, or helping her learn, or defending her quite calmly from the forces against her. He really barely even raises his voice, even at the end of the film where he passionately defends Belinda. His defense though still is restrained, which I did not mind because I felt that his character was honestly just a soft spoken fellow. This really is an entirely fulfilling performance I think. He is suppose to be really nice, and he is. He is never bad, and keeps a consistent character, that he would have really undermined it if he tried to show any darker side of the character. He was meant to be nice and supportive, and he is nice and supportive. I simply cannot say anything bad about his performance, it is performance that entirely serves its purpose.


Anonymous said...

Have no idea how he got nominated - he hardly stands out at all.

Louis Morgan said...

A strange nomination most certainly, especially since he was nominated over such people as Humphrey Bogart, Henry Fonda, and James Stewart in flashier roles.

Anonymous said...

I can understand why he was nominated, he was a hero and you're right it wasn't really a challenging role but I thought he was another brilliant part of this fantastic film!

Grady Tripp said...

I don't mean this bad in any way, but you constantly spell his name wrong. It's Lew AYRES, not AYERS.

All the best,

Grady Tripp

dinasztie said...

I think he was good, but nothing amazing, really.

Fritz said...

I liked him and I am glad that he received at least one Oscar nomination in his life (he should have won Supporting Actor for "Holiday").

Louis Morgan said...

Grady: Unfortunately I took spell checks word for it.

Fritz: I'll have to watch Holiday to see if I agree.